Dr. Ashish K. Jha, former director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, has joined Brown University as the dean of its School of Public Health. A general internist previously with the West Roxbury VA in Massachusetts, Jha will continue his practice at the Providence VA Medical Center. Jha is recognized globally as an expert on pandemic preparedness and response as well as on health policy research and practice. After leading groundbreaking research on Ebola, he is now on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, leading national and international analysis of key issues and advising state and federal policy makers.
A staunch critic of the Trump administration, Jha has been tracking the spread of the coronavirus closely since the outbreak and has been outspoken about the Trump administration’s slow response to the threat and the slow pace of testing in the U.S.
To highlight the shortage of protective gear for medical staff, Jha had changed his Twitter handle to Ashish ‘We need PPEs [personal protective equipment] to protect docs & nurses’ Jha.
Jha told the Harvard Crimson that during his conversations with Drew Faust, the 28th president of Harvard, he picked up a “very clear signal” that she wanted to lead a university “deeply engaged” with the world around it. And in order to achieve that, Jha said, the Global Health Institute’s efforts have “partly focused on researching pandemics and building a framework for pandemic response.” He said this work allowed them to respond very quickly to the pandemic in March. “I think over the last five, six months, the Harvard Global Health Institute has really been on the forefront of responding to the pandemic, generating data.”
Since March, his team has collaborated with major news organizations like ProPublica and the New York Times to calculate key figures about hospital bed capacity across the country and publish guidelines on the number of tests needed per day to reopen the economy during the pandemic. The Global Health Institute has also worked to raise awareness of climate change as a public health issue. Stefanie C. Friedhoff — the institute’s director of content and strategy — told the Harvard Crimson that Jha has “played a key role in addressing that issue, including through testimony before Congress.”
In a letter addressed to the Brown students on Sept. 1, Jha wrote: “This is an unprecedented time to be joining you. In the midst of the largest public health crisis in a century, this is a moment to recast and reinvigorate public health. And we at the Brown School of Public Health are uniquely able to do so.” He continued: “In this moment of challenge, we have the ability to bring bold thinking and fearless research to this pandemic, to issues central to our school, and, importantly, to make clear the significance of public health in our community, our country, and around the globe.”
Before joining the Brown School of Public Health, Jha was a faculty member at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) since 2004 and Harvard Medical School since 2005. He was the faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute from 2014 until September 2020. From 2018 to 2020, he served as the dDean for Global Strategy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
He has published more than two hundred original research publications in prestigious journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the BMJ, and is a frequent contributor to a range of public media. He has extensively researched how to improve the quality and reduce the cost of health care, focusing on the impact of public health policy nationally and around the globe.
Jha was born in Pursaulia, Bihar, in 1970. He moved to Toronto, Canada in 1979 and then to the United States in 1983. In 1992, Dr. Jha graduated Magna Cum Laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in economics. He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1997 and then trained as a resident in Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He returned to Boston to complete his fellowship in General Medicine from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. In 2004, he completed his Master of Public Health degree at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2013.